Tuesday, February 22, 2011

That Scream? It’s Just Another Cyber-Munche

By Hector

Last week an incautious forecast emanated from The Diary. It was issued without taking into the account the variable humours, not to say the jealousies, of the cyber gods; or indeed of the universal application of Sod’s Law. It said that readers would not even notice that this week’s Diary had a provenance not of Bali, since in cyberspace not only could no one hear you scream, but they had no idea where you were.

Alert readers may therefore have been a little discomfited to hear the distant echo of a scream from deep in cyberspace on Tuesday. It was (of course) from your incautious and ill-advised Diarist, on being apprised of the fact that his laptop computer had toppled off the perch. Monty Python-sketch-like, it was no more. It was deceased. It had ceased to be. The Monty Python sketch owes its own provenance to an Athenian joke from the fourth century, in which someone is complaining (to the seller of the same) that his slave has died; it turns on the – entirely reasonable – counter argument from the former owner that the slave in question was alive and well at the time of sale.

Today’s slaves are of course computers. Like the slaves of old, blast them, they have minds of their own and a determination to use them. And not necessarily to their master’s advantage. In this case the battery was refusing to charge and the diagnosis – well, post mortem as it turned out – was that neither the battery nor the charger was to blame, but the integrated connection within the motherboard itself. Your Diarist, at heart the uncouth individual you all instinctively know him to be, instantly interposed a six-letter word between mother and board. But we digress.

The result of this unfortunate coincidence of inclement events: Get a new laptop, on cost grounds if for no other reason. Finding a new slave and buying one was likely to be cheaper and less time-consuming than attempting a miracle resurrection of the incumbent. Besides, a few more gigabytes might be useful.

The search is on.

Disconnect

One result of temporary absence from the internet these days is that one’s life falls apart. Well, perhaps not quite. But being suddenly deprived of ready access to The Bali Times website and other good places is a pain. It’s true you can read the papers – though in The Diary’s present location the local paper is not exactly reading material of choice – but absent the web, one feels deprived.

Mind you, a drive down into the wine country of Margaret River is both an admirable antidote and an excursion that should never be forgone. The Diary and Distaff returned last weekend to a fine establishment last visited 21 years ago – that seems impossible but is regrettably the case – at which lunch and a decorous modicum of fine wine was consumed.

It was Woody Nook, a Ruritanian-style retreat just a little to the north of Margaret River itself, where the meals in the Nook are first-class. The Diary indulged in a beef ravioli helped down by a very pleasant red, and left a card lest Simple Simon of the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association should ever drop in.

For two decades Woody Nook it has been Nookie Wood in Diary parlance. Many among the lunchtime crowd last Sunday looked as if they might have had the same idea.

Oh for the Bukit

One desperately tries to avoid visiting southern regions of Australia in their winter. It is far too cold and wet for comfort, especially for those who have trained throughout their lives for the amiable beneficence of the tropical zone. In The Diary’s view, anywhere south or north of Latitude 10 is asking for trouble.

But a summer visit to the West Australian Riviera however is not without its problems either. When you live on the beautiful Bukit (Latitude 8S) and enjoy daily maxima of 28-29C, minima of 24-26C, and thrill to the chill of the occasional 22C morning, 34C-plus in the shade is a tad too much.

Down here on 34S, there’s been all this strange blue stuff above us, too. It seems to be sky. We’re just not accustomed anymore to clear skies over the Bukit. It’s so difficult for it to bucket down unless masses of those woolly grey things get between you and the blue.

Festive Note

It was good to see, in a window of opportunity between no internet access and internet access this week, that Janet de Neefe has been busy promoting this year’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. She enjoined us in an email to mark October 5-9 in our diary as the dates of the 2011 extravaganza. We were grateful for this confirmation and have duly underlined these auspicious dates in our calendar.

Bali’s annual writers’ festival, whether or not one of the six best in the world according to some distant glossy journal, is of course an event to be welcomed and applauded, and promoted. We wanted to do this last year but were not allowed to be a participant, having apparently offended someone or other, perhaps by being an actual newspaper that not only reports the news but subjects it to analysis and sometimes – heavens forefend – pens a critical comment or three.

We look forward to an opportunity to promote the event – and subject it to objective analysis – this year. The theme for 2011 is Nandurin Karang Awak, Cultivate the Land Within. Let’s get digging.

Fanatic Note

If it were not so serious it would be laughable that the Iranian government is in such a flux over the outcome of events in Egypt. Its leaders are clearly petrified that the outcome of the inevitable Egyptian “revolution” will not be a triumph for Islamic fundamentalism. Anyone could tell them that, the Muslim Brotherhood notwithstanding, Egypt is about the least fundamentalist nation you could find in the Islamic diaspora.

The Iranian political leader, I’m a mad dinner jacket, has made common cause with the ayatollahs in pursuit of an Iran that the country’s intelligencia reject and which will not work. The genius of Iran lies in its history, its acceptance of modernity, its nationally defined accretion to Islam, and its educated classes (of which their present political leader is an errant member).

The expansive and progressive future of Iran is more perfectly expressed by the life (and unconscionable death) of Neda Agha Soltan than by the man who acquiesced in, if he did not directly cause, her murder by an authorised sniper on the streets of Tehran in 2009.

Indonesia’s own fundamentalists, who wreck churches, kill “errant” Muslims, would put every one of their countrymen in Purdah if they could, and similarly seek to abolish the modern world, might properly and profitably consider this.

In for a Grilling

There are benefits to having a short sojourn in Western Australia. You see all sorts of things. One little chap seen the other day was fixedly engaged on a marathon swim. He was 10 metres offshore and paddling madly, first westwards and then eastwards, while his friends (a man and a boy) kept walking pace along the beach. And he did really well, for a short-haired terrier.

Another little item of interest was fits of ersatz outrage in the West Australian parliament over the absence of National Party leader and minister for something or other Brendan Grylls. He was not at his seat because, sensible fellow, he was having a holiday in Bali.

diary@thebalitimes.com

Filed under: The Bali Times Diary

EDITORIAL: A Jab at Rabies

As images captured by a Bali Times photographer this week show, in places there is tangible evidence of action in the battle against one of Bali’s biggest health emergencies for years. On an island-wide scale, it is not enough.

So far this year this newspaper has continued to hear almost daily from readers of their concerns about what really is being done to eradicate rabies from this island. From around Bali, from the crowded south to the remote areas of the east and north, they report no visible signs that measures are being taken to combat a disease that has cost at least 120 lives since it broke out in the southernmost Ungasan area in late 2008.

Readers are rightly indignant that a project launched last September by the Ubud-based Bali Animal Welfare Association, a grouping for foreigners resident in Bali finically backed by overseas animal organisations, in conjunction with the Bali authorities – namely the Animal Husbandry Department – appears to be nowhere in sight.

The experiment aims to vaccinate 70 percent of the island’s hundreds of thousands of feral dogs, and mark them with collars and paint (for juveniles) as a sign they have been jabbed. Yet many people report no vaccination teams in their areas, no street dogs bearing markers of inoculation and continuing bites from the hordes of wandering canines.

We hope that the solid action our photographer shot in Denpasar this week will be swiftly replicated in every village in Bali. We are not optimistic, however, that this method alone is sufficient to rid the scourge of rabies from the island. As we have argued many times, there are simply far too many stray dogs – around 560,000 of them, according to government estimates – to warrant success in an eradication programme based solely on vaccinating. The wandering population needs to be drastically scaled back.

That aside, many people want the streets cleared of these itinerant creatures for a different reason: They are a visual pollutant for which no one, it seems, wants to accept responsibility. (They are also a real risk to motorists.) It therefore must be incumbent upon the tourism-reliant authorities to capture all stray dogs and carry out a culling programme if the dogs are not claimed. Many are owned by Balinese who blithely allow them to ramble outside of their homes. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Filed under: Headlines

Cell-Based Flu Shot Beats Current Vaccine: Study

Flu vaccines made from lab-grown cells work at least as well as those derived from viruses cultivated in chicken eggs, the preferred method for 50 years, according to a study released this week.

The findings, reported in The Lancet, could help speed approval for the new technique in the United States, which has recently said healthy adults should also be inoculated against seasonal influenza.

Cell-based flu vaccines have major advantages over the traditional manufacturing process, including unlimited supply, a shorter production time, and an alternative for persons allergic to eggs.

They may also be better suited for developing a shield against the potential pandemic threat of a deadly H5N1 bird flu mutation.

But their effectiveness had yet to be fully tested in a large-scale clinical trial, according to the authors.

Noel Barrett, a researcher at the Biomedical Research Centre in Austria, and colleagues divided more than 7,000 volunteers in the United States, 18 to 49 years old, into two groups.

Participants in the first group were injected with a flu vaccine derived from lab-grown cells during the 2008-2009 influenza season, while the second group was given a placebo shot with no active ingredients.

The vaccine was nearly 80 percent effective in protecting against that year’s flu strains, comparing favourably to a 73 percent rate for egg-based vaccines, as reported elsewhere.

There were no serious secondary effects, with only a few “mild and transient” problems registered.

“This study is the first published report of the clinical efficacy of an influenza vaccine derived from a Vero-cell-culture,” the authors said, using the term for animal or human cell lines grown in the laboratory.

Cell-based flu vaccines have been approved for use in Europe, and were made in limited quantities before and during the 14-month World Health Organisation (WHO) H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic alert in 2009/2010.

The virus turned out to be less lethal than feared, and large stocks of hastily manufactured vaccine went unused.

But had the flu been more deadly – especially early in the flu season – it is unlikely that pharmaceutical companies could have kept up with demand using the egg-based method of fabrication, experts say.

In egg culture, flu viruses are injected into chicken egg embryos, where they multiply. After several days of incubation a machine opens the egg and harvests the virus, which is then purified and chemically killed.

On average it takes one or two eggs to produce a single dose of annual flu vaccine.

In cell culture, the virus is grown in animal or human cells, which are available in unlimited supply.

In August 2010, the WHO said swine flu – which has to date claimed more than 18,400 lives worldwide – had “largely run its course”, declaring an end to the pandemic.

The H1N1 virus is now regarded as part of seasonal influenza and protection is included in standard seasonal flu vaccines.

Filed under: Health

Casting Out Demons Is a Possessive Pursuit (But Let’s Get Real)

By Novar Caine

Demonic control is seemingly rife across the planet, from the time of Jesus Christ to possibly well before. The supposed son of an alleged God did his share of casting out while on Earth, a practice that appears peculiar but that nonetheless continues to today.

Whereas in earlier times disturbances may have been unknown psychiatric disorders, contemporary exorcists rule out medical issues before proceeding. It is believed that a malevolent force or entity has taken over a person’s body and is making itself heard in the human realm. 

Fascination with exorcism has become fashionable. Chief casters-out at the Vatican have lengthy newspaper articles written about them. Editors and their reporters are enraptured by this extraordinarily extraordinary subject. Through the media lens, we experience this occultish world, this ceaseless battle between supposed good and petulant evil elements, vicariously.

Now showing in cinemas, The Rite, a US$37-million Hollywood film starring Welsh-born Anthony Hopkins and new Irish actor Colin O’Donoghue, seeks to expand on this ghoulish theme, but with a reality twist. The 1973 film The Exorcist was based on an account of a gruesome exorcism but The Rite is the result of an apparent fact-based book involving deep research and many interviews by American journalist Matt Baglio, who was stationed at the Rome bureau of The Associated Press.

His book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, published in 2009, chronicles the lives of various Roman Catholic exorcist priests as they confronted cases of supposed demonic possession. At first sceptical about the entire process, Baglio – like the film’s protagonist priest a borderline atheist who eventually finds his faith – gradually becomes convinced that the people he meets, who exhibit disturbing signs of possession such as screaming reams of profanities and speaking in tongues, are genuine. He writes in a foreword to the book: “These were not people who struck me as trying to pull a fast one; they were sincere, heartfelt individuals who were struggling with something even they seemed at a loss to understand. Later, when I participated in exorcisms, this impression was only reinforced.”

His interest in the macabre matter began when he heard about a seminar on exorcism in 2005 organised by a university with ties to the Vatican and unusually open to laypeople. Thinking he could at best get an article out of it, he was soon possessed by the subject.

In Indonesia demonic possession is known as masuk setan – Satan enters: victims instantly converted into thrashing and hysterical versions of their normal selves. It takes a shaman to banish the evil spirit. In Bali, like many other parts of the country, practitioners of the dark arts, of which there are many, render their foes helpless and ailing. This correspondent assisted last year in a Hindu exorcism of sorts of an elderly woman in a remote Balinese village who was all but dead to the world but, awakening to a state of hissing and howling, gradually regained normality.  

But there is a lacking aspect to this otherworldly matter: Rather than storm in with crucifixes, holy water and mantras, there is vastly more to be gained by first talking – not swiftly dispatching – these purported incarnations. Instead of quoting the Bible and ordering them out, better we seek to know from whence they sprang, and what their intentions are: Who are you (asked, yes)? From where have you come? What do you hope to achieve by taking over this person, apart from hysterically (and comically) spitting, rattling and shrieking? What knowledge can you impart to justify the tales we have historically been told? It is absurd to dismiss this potential trove of answers.

Just as with terrorists in the 21st century, there is infinitely more to learn by interrogating demons than bombing or shooting them in the head. A paradox, but it is ultimately strange – nay, a delusion – that in this God-disproving world where physics, the creation of an apparent creator, trumps an all-pervasive spiritual entity.

In the 1800s probing people – desperate: the sum of human existence with a tenuous link based on faith – tried to skip into the occult to prove the existence of an afterlife. Those efforts continue today: The Society for Psychical Research was established in London in 1882 to reach out to spectres in a bid to determine if there was anything beyond what we perceive to be the ultimate and only reality. It is an admirable project, perhaps one of the most significant.

Tweet with Novar @novarcaine

Filed under: At Large

A Jab at Rabies

As the images captured by a Bali Times photographer on page four of this edition show, in places there is tangible evidence of action in the battle against one of Bali’s biggest health emergencies for years. On an island-wide scale, it is not enough.

So far this year this newspaper has continued to hear almost daily from readers of their concerns about what really is being done to eradicate rabies from this island. From around Bali, from the crowded south to the remote areas of the east and north, they report no visible signs that measures are being taken to combat a disease that has cost at least 120 lives since it broke out in the southernmost Ungasan area in late 2008.

Readers are rightly indignant that a project launched last September by the Ubud-based Bali Animal Welfare Association, a grouping for foreigners resident in Bali finically backed by overseas animal organisations, in conjunction with the Bali authorities – namely the Animal Husbandry Department – appears to be nowhere in sight.

The experiment aims to vaccinate 70 percent of the island’s hundreds of thousands of feral dogs, and mark them with collars and paint (for juveniles) as a sign they have been jabbed. Yet many people report no vaccination teams in their areas, no street dogs bearing markers of inoculation and continuing bites from the hordes of wandering canines.

We hope that the solid action our photographer shot in Denpasar this week will be swiftly replicated in every village in Bali. We are not optimistic, however, that this method alone is sufficient to rid the scourge of rabies from the island. As we have argued many times, there are simply far too many stray dogs – around 560,000 of them, according to government estimates – to warrant success in an eradication programme based solely on vaccinating. The wandering population needs to be drastically scaled back.  

That aside, many people want the streets cleared of these itinerant creatures for a different reason: They are a visual pollutant for which no one, it seems, wants to accept responsibility. (They are also a real risk to motorists.) It therefore must be incumbent upon the tourism-reliant authorities to capture all stray dogs and carry out a culling programme if the dogs are not claimed. Many are owned by Balinese who blithely allow them to ramble outside of their homes. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Filed under: Editorial

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stop These Monstrous Mammoths from Hogging Our Roads

It was the first time I’d driven alone to Ubud, and I hoped for an uneventful journey on roads free of obstacles and mindless maniacs who need lessons in the concept of road-sharing and traffic lanes, instruction on the meaning of traffic-light colours and a lecture on courtesy and safety on the road.

Our old Feroza Prannie was watered, fed and gently reminded of performance expectations. Armed with a detailed list of directional instructions kindly prepared by The Playmate and supported by a street directory – the one that gives one of many alternative names for a particular stretch of road but never one that appears on any street sign – Prannie and I started a 24-hour trip that was full of fun and frustration.

I sighed with relief as we sailed with relatively little angst through the chaos of Simpang Siur and almost smiled as I prevented a filthy, big truck from pushing us into oncoming traffic at the Topahti turn-off.

We ploughed on through many kilometres of roads awash with flowing water, unsure if the drains couldn’t cope with the rains or if there were breaks in the mains. Whatever it was, it demanded utmost concentration to constantly duck motorbikes that suddenly swerved at us to avoid the next gush of water.

I thought we were progressing admirably towards point No 2 on our long list when things went wrong. Perhaps when The Playmate wrote “go straight” at that junction he meant follow the main road, rather than the very little one that extended from the main road in a straight-ish direction.

Too impatient to turn back, we chugged on through alien territory, searching for a familiar landmark or a piece of terrain described on the list. Nothing. The roads were eerily flat and straight when my memory said hilly and winding.

Shortly after I’d burned the outer layer of rubber from Prannie’s sturdy shoes by slamming on the brakes and careering wildly to avoid contact with the child motorcyclist who zoomed across our front from a side road, we came to a halt. And that’s when I knew were indeed headed for Ubud, and that the stop-start journey would be long and fraught.

The giveaway was the ridiculously oversized and mostly empty tourist bus ahead, taking 20 minutes to turn a corner on a road too narrow for even the motorbikes to pass. The monster and its similar-sized kin were all out that day, heading for Ubud with skimpy loads and messing thoroughly with any semblance of traffic flow, both in the town and its surrounds. I felt sorry for us and sorrier for the villagers who couldn’t deliver their crops or collect their children from school.

On our eventual arrival, Prannie rested under a tree and I found a bowl of soup to fill the void left by the nervous energy expended on the trip. Don’t bother to check in, said The Sister, when we met at a well-known Jl Bisma guesthouse. We’ve been here for three days, she advised, and the staff can’t be bothered. So I didn’t, feeling sure they’d want to find out who’d put Prannie in one of their limited parking spots. But they couldn’t be bothered, with very much at all, including moving into the slumber room, I mean the back office, to retrieve The Sister’s laundry on check-out.

Arguably, the worsening journey to Ubud is still worth it, for the town’s fine scenic spots, arts, architecture, food and music. We dined well and headed to a joint known for its live jazz – in the widest interpretation of the genre.

It didn’t disappoint. The five-man band exerted more energy, creativity and genuine effort to entertain than many local musicians whose breaks are often longer than their sets, especially if tips are not fulsome. Ubud seems to create and attract talented musicians who love their art and love to perform. And they are invariably rewarded, if not with money then with audience appreciation and participation.  At our Ubud jazz joint, the dance floor was full of locals and guests from around the world, all having a great time together.

At the temple just outside, thousands of Hindus were equally but more quietly enthralled by a presentation of traditional Wayan puppetry on massive screens. Hi-tech comes to temple in the cultural conclave of Ubud. We were kindly invited back for tomorrow’s ceremony.

But tomorrow we were heading home, via a detour to the litter-ridden slum at the rear of the Batu Bulan bus depot, and along dangerously pot-holed Jl Raya Uluwatu, on which a convoy  of grotesquely huge and largely empty buses descended from the cliffs, blowing their horns and scattering others from the road.

Is there any onus on the owners of these mammoths – white elephants it seems, by their lack of patrons – to improve our roads to accommodate their beasts? Or will they be permitted to continue bullying their way about, ruining traffic flows and hogging inadequate road space at the expense of the rest of us and for the sake of a tourist dong or yuan? The roads can’t cope, guys. Do yourselves and everyone a favour. Buy smaller buses.

LCFiled under: ILAND

Out of Ashes of Disaster, Tourism Rises

 

Javanese villagers who survived the violent eruptions of Mt Merapi last year are tapping into the macabre market for disaster tourism to help rebuild their shattered lives, reports Alvin Soedarjo

Suwarni lost her house and father-in-law when Mt Merapi in Central Java burst into life in October and November, killing more than 350 people in searing rivers of lava, ash and gas that swept across the surrounding countryside.

Government assistance was scant and with little prospect of employment the 26-year-old mother started selling video CDs of the disaster to tourists who have been flocking to the mountain north of Yogyakarta.

“It’s a strange feeling. I’m selling video CDs about my devastated home to tourists,” Suwarni said.

“I have no choice. Although it’s difficult for me, I have to get over it and bring some money to my family.”

Tourists from around Indonesia and the world have been coming to Merapi to see the devastation first-hand since the threat level was downgraded in December, officials said.

The eruptions were the biggest since 1872 and the 2,970-metre peak is still rumbling deep within its molten core. The official alert level now stands at “vigilant,” but the eruptions have stopped.

Almost 400,000 people who spent weeks in emergency shelters have returned home, many finding nothing but ash or mud where their villages once stood.

The scene is still one of utter devastation, especially on the southern slopes where pyroclastic flows of gas and debris caused most of the destruction.

Burned trees and car wrecks litter the area around Suwarni’s village of Kinahrejo, about four kilometres from the summit. The once-picturesque village is gone, buried under a moonscape of black earth.

Suwarni’s family kept dairy cows before the disaster. Now she sells her videos for about Rp40,000 (US$4.40) each and makes just enough to get by.

Dutch tourist Hans Van Der Weide, 62, said he could barely believe how the landscape, once lush and green, had been transformed.

“I wanted to see the impact of the eruptions because I’d been here before… It’s unbelievable that everything here has been destroyed,” he said.

US geography student Kyle Miller, 21, said he didn’t expect to see so many other tourists.

“I was surprised to see so many people on the mountain and walking around in the ruins… I saw what seemed to be thousands of people arriving to simply see an area of devastation,” he said.

“I hope that the money being generated by parking fees, as well as souvenir and food sales, will somehow benefit the community and speed up the process of rebuilding the lives of the locals who lost so much.”

Kinahrejo’s most famous resident was Merapi’s traditional “guardian,” Grandfather Marijan.

The old man, appointed by the sultan of Yogyakarta to tend to the volcano’s restive spirits, ignored warnings to evacuate his home and died in the first seconds of the first eruption. His sacrifice has become local legend.

One of his daughters, Panut, 59, now sells cigarettes, instant noodles and drinks to tourists.

Even before the eruptions, Marijan’s house was a popular attraction for curious visitors. Panut said visitor numbers had tripled since his death as people come to pay their respects or simply gawk at the destruction.

“Although a lot of tourists come here I’m still poor because my house was destroyed,” she said.

“The government has to give us new homes.”

Indonesian day-tripper Cahyo Sunarko, 22, from the Javanese town of Magelang, said he was offended by tourists who came to Merapi only for leisure.

“You can see that everything here has been devastated. It’s a perfect area for reflection that God can take away anything in seconds,” the student said.

Merapi is not the only disaster zone in Indonesia that is popular with tourists.

The mud volcano known as “Lusi” also attracts a lot of visitors to Sidoarjo district in East Java province, where the geyser began oozing from the bowels of the earth on May 29, 2006.

The mud – a hot, bubbling, grey substance the consistency of wet concrete – has already wiped out 12 villages, killed 13 people and displaced more than 42,000.

Filed under: LIFE

February 18-24, 2011

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M; www.worldhealth.net), a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Social Interactions Promote Health 
Previous studies have suggested that social norms can influence health-related behaviours, such as physical activity and eating patterns. Kylie Ball, from Deakin University in Australia, and colleagues investigated the associations between clearly-defined social norms and a range of physical activity and eating behaviours amongst women, adjusting for the effects of social support. The researchers enrolled 3,610 women, ages 18 to 46 years, residing in Victoria, Australia. Via surveys, the team collected data about the subjects’ physical activity (leisure-time moderate-vigorous activity; volitional walking; cycling for transport) and eating behaviours (fast food, soft drink and fruit and vegetable consumption), and social norms and support for these. The researchers tested the extent to which a fashion for healthy behaviour among a person’s contacts could influence their own lifestyle. The women who took part in the study were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements like “I often see other people walking in my neighbourhood” and “Lots of women I know eat fast food often.” Those women who moved in healthier circles were in turn more likely to eat well and get more exercise. Suggesting that: “These data confirm theoretical accounts of the importance of social norms for physical activity and eating behaviours, and suggest that this is independent from social support,” the team concludes that: “Intervention strategies aimed at promoting physical activity and healthy eating could incorporate strategies aimed at modifying social norms relating to these behaviours.”

Dr Klatz observes: In finding that physical activity and healthy eating behavior are both strongly affected by social norms, Australian researchers reveal how peers may profoundly affect our ability to optimise health and longevity.

Exercise Combats Cognitive Decline
Recognized as a major public health concern, cognitive impairment among the aging population is characterized by frequent falls. In that previous studies have suggested a beneficial role for exercise in fall prevention, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues studied the role of a strength training exercise program on cognitive function. Building on the Brain Power Study, which demonstrated that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly progressive strength training improved executive cognitive function in women ages 65 to 75, the year-long follow-up study found the cognitive benefits of strength training persisted, and with two critical findings. The group that sustained cognitive benefits was the once-weekly strength training group, rather than the twice-weekly training group; the team found that the subjects engaged in once-weekly strength training were more successful at being able to maintain the same level of physical activity achieved in the original study. Secondly, the researchers found that the economic benefits of once-weekly strength training were sustained 12 months after its formal cessation. Specifically, the researchers found the once-weekly strength group incurred fewer healthcare-resource utilisation costs and had fewer falls than the twice-weekly balance and tone group.   

Remarks Dr Goldman: Reporting that a regular schedule of resistance training program helps to preserve cognitive health in seniors, this Canadian research team underscores the vital role of physical activity in maintaining memory, learning and decision-making capacities as we age. 

Anti-Aging Lifestyle Helps Vision   
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a major cause of vision impairment among the aging population, affecting one in four people ages 65 and older. Julie A. Mares, from the University of Wisconsin, and colleagues studied the relationships between lifestyle behaviours of diet, smoking, and physical activity and the subsequent prevalence of AMD. The team analyzed data from the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study, an ancillary study associated with the Women’s Health Initiative, involving 1,313 women, ages 55 to 74 years, at the study’s start, that aimed to assess the role of carotenoid compounds in age-related eye diseases. Compared with sedentary smokers who ate lots of fatty processed foods, participants in study who engaged in  healthy lifestyle habits – including regular exercise, healthy diet and not smoking – were found to have an adjusted odds ratio of 0.29 for developing AMD over a six-year span, translating to a two-thirds reduction in  risk. The researchers conclude that:  “Modifying lifestyles might reduce risk for early [AMD] as much as three-fold, lowering the risk for advanced AMD in a person’s lifetime and the social and economic costs of AMD to society.” 

Comments Dr Klatz: Women who engage in regular exercise, enjoy a healthy diet, and do not smoke, reduce their risks of developing AMD by more than two-thirds. This is an important reminder of the wide range of health benefits afforded by following an anti-aging lifestyle.

Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases.  It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans.  As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties.  The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at www.worldhealth.net, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavors and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

Filed under: Longevity News & Review

Forecasts for week beginning February 19, 2011.

By Jonathan Cainer

This week brings a lovely triple conjunction of Mercury, Mars and Neptune. It all takes place at the exact, opposite degree to the Full Moon that culminated just before the weekend. That’s powerful, as is the upcoming right angle between Jupiter and Pluto. It all speaks of breaking barriers, collapsing power structures, confused conflicts and tensions that rise up, seemingly from nowhere, explode wildly and then vanish, almost without trace. Watch for that on the collective stage of consciousness (i.e. the news) and watch for it too, in your own life. And don’t worry. It’s nothing to fear.

PISCES (February 20 – March 20)
Some people think the way to get rid of a problem is to solve it. But the moment you do this, you put up a kind of invisible vacancy sign. It says, “This person has just solved a problem so now they are ready to take on another. Any volunteers?” Other people think that the way to get rid of problems is to ignore them. That’s wrong too. Problems hate being ignored. When you just try to blot them out, they gang up en masse and besiege you until, eventually, you end up with so many that you have to recognise them. If though, you learn to love your problems, they stop being problems.

ARIES (March 21 – April 20)
If you don’t want anything to get any better, just ignore this week’s opportunity. Then, probably, it will keep its distance from you. Even then, though, there is a chance it will reach out into your life and reveal your biggest difficulty. Events and circumstances are determined to show you what you need to learn, even if you are reluctant to be educated. A sharp alignment from Mars to Saturn suggests that all you need do is ask for enlightenment and, as long as your request is sincere, you will gain much insight. Be willing to learn life’s lessons and you will make the most amazing gains.

TAURUS (April 21 – May 21)
Life, they say, is full of surprises. Actually, it isn’t. It’s full of repetition. The same old things go on. We get so used to them that when anything suddenly differs, we are taken aback and talk about it for ages afterwards. Then, in much the same way as we assume that criminals must be everywhere because the newspapers are full of crime stories, we make far more allowance for the unexpected than we need to. This week will bring a confusing development. But you don’t need either to prepare for it or to worry about it. You just need to keep looking at it till you recognise what a gift it is.

GEMINI (May 22 – June 22)
It is time for a rethink. In its current form, an idea is unworkable. It only needs modifying, not abandoning. Make allowances for the needs and beliefs of the people in your world who do not see things in quite the same way that you do. They may be wrong but they must be respected. And anyhow, they may yet be right. You may eventually be very glad that you had to make an adjustment to your course. As your ruler now completes a tense alignment to Saturn, several fascinating discoveries begin to be made. Be open to new possibilities and you’ll see some truly inspiring ones.

CANCER (June 23 – July 23)
We are all, in one way, asylum seekers. We all live in the madhouse called Earth. We are all surrounded by different sorts of insanity. We all crave meaning, peace, a sense of reason and an end to wild stupidity. We are all victims of a society that we didn’t ask to be born into yet now cannot get away from. We all need help and we deserve it too. Oh yes we do. Even the helpers need it. Indeed, the helpers probably need it most. That’ll be you, then. Helper extraordinaire. If you want to carry on being helpful, this week, be sensitive, patient and humble enough to let someone else help you.

LEO (July 24 – August 23)
Things don’t have to carry on in the same old way. Something new can happen. Something different. Something special. Something unusual. The Sun’s conjunction to Mercury looks set to bring you an insight that facilitates great change. Expect, this week, to have a realisation – or to receive news that comes as something of a revelation – or to encounter a situation, at first, of which you do not fully understand the implications. Constructive change is finally starting to happen. Your prospects for greater financial security are improving. Be glad of this. It’s exactly what’s needed.

VIRGO (August 24 – September 23)
You can’t just beat a really good problem. Get yourself one of those and you can sweep away heaps of trivia in a moment. You can ignore any number of passing irritations. You can pay no further attention to a series of previously pressing matters. With your one big, all-encompassing, totally prepossessing problem, you can produce a million excuses, a billion justifications and a trillion reasons to excuse bad behaviour or feel sorry for yourself. Now, how big is your current problem? Not that big! Unless, that is, you secretly harbour a desire to turn it into something of that size.

LIBRA (September 24 – October 23)
Now where are you? Is this quite what you had in mind when you first set out on your most recent journey? There are two things to consider here: 1. The journey isn’t over yet; 2. You need more time to get used to what’s happening. Even the finest things can seem undesirable when they are strangely unfamiliar. Life is obliging you to look at factors and issues that you would far prefer to draw a discreet veil over. Once you overcome your initial reluctance and resistance, you will start to make a series of valuable discoveries that radically alter your understanding in what’s possible.

SCORPIO (October 24 – November 22)
What’s the lesser of two evils? That’s the first question you need to ask this week. Until you arrive at a satisfactory answer, there can be no progress. You can be as outraged and offended as you wish to be by one situation but not by two! One, at least, must be accepted. Even (you’re probably not going to like this, but I am only speaking metaphorically) embraced. Really, that’s not such a bad proposition. One of those wrongs has more right on its side than you yet realise! Be open to seeing a situation in a new light and your week may yet end with a happy surprise.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 – December 21)
Our luck goes wherever we go – but, like our nose, we cannot see it because it is too close to us. We only see it in reflection. When we stop to look back on where we have been or what we have been through, we get some idea. But others are in a better position than we are to assess the extent to which we have been blessed or cursed. We really can’t be objective because we take our disappointments so closely to heart – and are often over-exuberant about our successes. This week, though, you will do well by anyone’s standards… even your own. Expect convenient coincidences.

CAPRICORN (December 22 – January 20)
You have more friends, fans and admirers than you realise. You don’t have to mount a campaign to earn approval from others. You just have to be yourself. If a relationship is now starting to prove difficult, it could be because you are trying too hard to understand someone – or worrying too much about whether they understand you. Worry less. If you are struggling to get to grips with a situation that does not make much sense, stop struggling. Stop trying. Just have more faith in your own natural charm and intelligence – for it will yet see you safely through from here to success.

AQUARIUS (January 21 – February 19)
What’s the difference between being persistent and being pushy? It’s like the distinction between a seduction and a stalking. Everybody likes to feel that an interesting invitation is open for them to explore if they wish. Nobody wants to feel as if they are being pursued and imposed upon. You now have something exceptional to offer. Understandably, you are keen to play your part in an important process. If, though, you have already volunteered, then you have registered your interest. You need say and do no more. Just trust, and wait. What you are looking for will come looking for you.

To purchase a full personal chart reading based on your exact date, place and time of birth – or to hear Jonathan’s weekly spoken forecast for your sign – visit www.cainer.com

Filed under: Week Ahead

Get It Right

Competing for the advertising dollar is tough business anywhere and perhaps tougher than most in Bali, where a wide array of companies offer copywriting and other agency services in a market where cut-price special dealing is not only the norm but an art form. It is natural enough that principals of advertising agencies should be unhappy that their firms miss out on business. It is a peculiar element of the local environment, however, that if your business fails to fire it is all the fault of unfair competition, especially from rapacious foreigners who have only come here to steal your piece of the action.

Business success and enterprise growth flows from continuously improving work quality and service levels and making sure your customers get what they want rather than what they can be persuaded to accept. There is no automatic access to anyone else’s money, especially on the specious grounds that you are local and all your competitors are foreign-owned or operated. Customers want value for money whatever they’re spending it on. And in the highly subjective environment of advertising, picking what a customer sees as value can be very difficult.

So we should view the recent complaints voiced by the head of Bali’s advertising agency collective, Roy Wicaksono, both in that light and with a large pinch of salt. Wicaksono is head of the local Mitra advertising agency as well as chairman of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Advertising Agency Association and clearly – from his comments – is fighting for more corporate turf as well as pushing arguments for a better deal for local operators.

The constant refrain in Bali, in business, is that foreigners and their companies unfairly dominate and do so, local business leaders like to suggest, by bending the rules, ducking their responsibilities, operating without the proper licences and (depending on the argument) failing to conform to a whole range of other rules and regulations. Doubtless such conditions exist – not only in the foreign business sector either – and this should not be the case. But that is a regulatory matter and, in Indonesia, regulation spectacularly resides on the non-performing side of the ledger.

Bali’s top-end tourism industry – where the big dollars are made and big dollars are spent – is foreign-dominated. Global hotel chains have global advertising requirements that – where they spend anything at all locally – must be met. Much of this advertising is in English, the international language. All of it requires a native-speaker grasp of the language. It is not surprising that local agencies that cannot provide that element of customer service get only a limited portion of the available business.

Lower down the advertising food chain the same conditions apply. People spending corporate money want results on an agreed timescale and which meet quality demands, not a succession of excuses as to why what they’ve paid for cannot be delivered (on time or at all; or in precisely the form desired).

Banging the anti-foreigner drum won’t deliver that.

Filed under: Editorial

A Few Things You Should Bring to Bali

by Barrie | February 18th, 2011  

Bali is a crazy strange place for first-time arrivals and besides being overwhelming [that includes starting at the airport] it is a full-on experience. For those of us who have years under-our-belts it’s a bit of the ‘ol ho-hum usual. There are several things new travellers to Bali could bring with them that would be helpful during their stay on the island.

Of course good common sense and sometimes logic helps but of course it is a matter of letting-go and stop ‘thinking western’ and expecting everything to be just like home because it just isn’t. If you can let yourself go and immerse yourself into the fascinating culture then an awesome experience awaits you. However, it is the material things that help when you visit Bali (besides money!].

First Aid Kit: Without a doubt the first thing you should throw into your suitcase or backpack, and, make sure it is up-to-date. Suggested medications to include in your first aid kit are analgesics (Tylenol, ASA, codeine), antimalarials (discuss with medical professional), antidiarrheal (Imodium, Pepto-Bismol); antibiotic such as Cipro, Zithromax), rehydration salts (Gastrolyte), antihistamine (Benadryl), sunscreen and the usual prescription and non-prescription medications used regularly. Others to be included in your kit should bandaids, tensor bandage, tweezers, Swiss Army knife, insect repellent. Or, if you don’t want to make up your own then simply buy one from any Red Cross store.

Guidebook and Balinese / Indonesian Phrase Book: There is a literal plethora of these in any bookshop in the city where you live. It’s best to purchase these at home as they can be expensive in Indonesia. Before you leave for Bali, browse through the guidebook and obtain some idea of the paces you want to visit. Learn from the phrasebook even if it’s only the usual greetings etc. A few words of the local lingo will unlock many social encounters.

As far as guidebooks are concerned, I prefer using Rough Guides because they are very nuts & bolts oriented, listing guest houses, places to eat, festivals and good all round information.

International Driving Licence: It is very true that your mode of transportation is one of the main factors that will affect your trip to Bali. So, if you fancy taking on the crazed road skills of the local drivers and the terrain then having an International Driving Licence will allow you to rent cars and motorbikes. Make sure to obtain insurance when you rent the mode of transport you choose.

Laptop or Notebook: I wouldn’t leave home without mine! Besides being handy for detailing the events of the day, they are also a great for downloading all your images from your digital camera. Most internet cafes on the tourist strip accommodate for laptop use. The size is up to you but a 15” like the one I use is excellent. They are also for recording all the special people you meet and names of cool places you encounter.

Ear plugs: These are easily purchased at any chemist or camping store. The reason I have added earplugs to this list is because they are useful if you wind up in a hotel on a busy street. Also, most of the 5 star hotels have ‘theme nights’ and these can be quite rowdy through until the early hours.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Half-Size Cruise Port Still Aground

AMLAPURA

Karangasem legislators are unhappy that the new cruise terminal at Tanah Ampo near Padang Bai, meant to accommodate growing numbers of cruise ships that want to call at Bali but built to short and in too shallow water to handle big liners, is apparently still no closer to completion.

Vice chairman of the Karangasem house of representatives I Nyoman Karya Kartika, who led the inspection, said immediate dredging was required or a further extension of the wharf.

But he also warned against the possible environmental risks of dredging Tanah Ampo.

Commission II chairman in the Karangasem legislature, Nyoman Oka Antara, who was also on the inspection tour, said the regency authorities had not fully consulted with cruise ship operators or the local travel industry.

Filed under: Headlines

Illegal Logger Caught Again

NEGARA

Jembrana Police say they have arrested an illegal logger who had returned to the business even though he was jailed for two months in 2004 for the same offence.

Ketut Sudarna, 33, also known as Rhino and from Sumber Sari at Melaya, was arrested a week ago with 54 planks cut from forest timber he planned to sell for Rp5,000 (55 US cents) a plank.

He told police it was plantation timber but forestry officers called in to check said it had been illegally removed from protected forestland.

Sudarna said he worked at odd jobs to make a living and often gathered firewood in the forest.

He has been charged under the 1999 Forestry Law.

Filed under: Headlines

Pastika’s Model Railway Gets Another Run

DENPASAR

Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has been driving his pet train project again, this time telling the Jakarta media his vision for a “slow train” service around the island is much more than just a road traffic management plan.

He repeated his message that it is an important asset for Bali’s tourism in its own right.

Pastika said he believed that once the railway was built tourism packages including rail travel would be easy to sell, saying one-day tours could be created.

“The train will stop at selected points where there are local tourism sites and attractions,” he said.

The governor also returned to the cost-cutting theme, repeating his idea that road easements could be used for the 565 kilometre round-island track, reducing land acquisitions costs.

“The aspect of land acquisition is not significant,” he said.

Pastika told his Jakarta audience the proposed railway was winning widespread public support from the Balinese, particularly in the north, which had not been able to join in the tourist boom because of poor road infrastructure.

The provincial government envisages an intermodal system connecting Ngurah Rai International Airport, sea ports, bus stations and tourism attractions. It says it will be in operation in 2015.

Pastika’s comments came at the signing of the memorandum of understanding covering the new rail system late last month.

Filed under: Headlines

Up to 2.8m Foreign Tourists This Year

DENPASAR

Fresh from a record inflow of foreign tourists in 2010, fuelled in large part by low-fare airline travel options, Bali is aiming for 2.6 to 2.8 million this year.
Last year Bali attracted 2.57 million foreign visitors, based on figures just released by the statistics agency.

Its chief, Gede Suarsa, said: “That number surpassed the target of 2-2.3 million.”

Suarsa said the 2011 foreign tourist target did not mean the island needed to add more hotel rooms or new facilities for tourists.

“Room facilities at starred hotels are still capable of accommodating the expected increase in tourists, bearing in mind that the average occupancy achieved by starred hotels in 2010 was 65 percent, an increase from the average 60.8% the year before,” he said.

Meanwhile the Central Statistics Bureau in Jakarta has released figures showing seven million foreign arrivals to Indonesia in 2010, up 10.74 percent on 2009.

Chief statistician Rusman Heriawan said: “This is in accordance with the Tourism Ministry’s target.”

Heriawan also reported an increase last year in foreign exchange earned from tourism to US$7.6 billion, up 20.63 percent.

“Average spending per visit was $1,085, a 9.02-percent increase.”

Filed under: Headlines

Friday, February 18, 2011

Filipino Woman Jailed over Drugs

SIDOARJO

A court sentenced a Filipino woman to 18 years in prison on Thursday for smuggling 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine into the country.

Evangeline Soneta, 29, was caught with the narcotics when she arrived in Surabaya airport from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in September 2009.

“We sentence her to 18 years in jail,” judge Sariyana of the Sidoarjo District Court in East Java said.

The sentence was less than the prosecutor’s recommendation of life in jail.

Indonesia enforces stiff penalties, including death, for drug trafficking.

Filed under: News Alerts

Regent’s Smart Phone Won’t Work

BANGLI

Bangli legislators are saying it is very difficult to contact the regent, Made Gianyar — and that the regent doesn’t seem to care that he is out of touch.

The matter was aired last week in Bangli’s legislature, when legislator I Wayan Natis told the assembly inability to contact the regent on his mobile phone created difficulties when there were important things to discuss.

He said another legislator, Wayan Koster, had recently tried to contact the regent three times but all attempts were unsuccessful. In the end, Koster sent a complaint to Natis.

It’s not only legislators who have difficulty getting in touch with the regent. Similar complaints have been voiced by officials, who say coordinating action is impossible without involving the regent directly.

Regent Gianyar said the communication problem was because he was using a new-technology mobile phone that often didn’t pick up a signal or suffered a high level of call drop-outs.

He said network providers should upgrade their service.

Filed under: Headlines

Kuta Waters Claim Another Life

KUTA

A Dutchman died while swimming at Kuta Beach on Thursday, police said.

Jan van Geseel, 63, was swept away by a large wave as he was swimming at Bali’s most popular beach in the mid-afternoon, Kuta Water Police chief AA Putu Wismara Putra said.

“The victim tried to get help by waving his arms about and a life guard swam to him and brought him to shore, but he was very weak,” he said.

Geseel died after being admitted to a local hospital. He is the latest fatality of frequent rip tides at Kuta Beach.

Filed under: News Alerts

A Few Things to Do in Ubud

by Barrie | February 17th, 2011  

Ubud is peaceful. It is a place where you could spend your entire holiday in Bali and it is also a great place to base yourself for exploring the rest of the island. There is so much of interest on offer in Ubud and the surrounding areas. Being a relatively tranquil place, it is a haven for tourists, lovers of art and a delightful area to spend a whole day. The centre of town is Jalan Raya Ubud and it is along this stretch of road where you can find some fabulous restaurants and warungs, and, great places to shop.

One of my favourite places in the surrounding area is the village of Petulu. Set in one of the most scenic areas on the island and directly north-east of Ubud, the village of Petulu is famed for its artists, dancers and carvers of wood and stone. No one really knows why the Herons, who first began roosting there in 1966, chose Petulu as their nesting site. Ask any of the elders in the village and they will tell you that the birds are in fact reincarnations of the tens of thousands of men and women who died during the civil unrest throughout Bali in 1966.

There are so many places to visit and here are a few things you could do:

1. Take time to check out a few of the great museums – Neka, ARMA, Seniwati – and learn about traditional Balinese art.

2. Visit the Ubud Monkey Forest but be aware that the monkeys are not as friendly as their relatives in the Sangeh Monkey Forest.

3. Take a dawn rice paddy hike along one of the many routes on the outskirts of town. If you like cycling then take one of the many tours available in the area.

4. Sample the fine food available in places such as Casa Luna, Ary’s Warung and Murni’s Warung. My favourite is Café Wayan!

5. Indulge in adventure white water rafting with one of the many reputable companies such as SOBEK in Sayan.

6. Watch an evening dance performance at the Ubud Palace on Jl. Raya Ubud.

7. A visit to Pasar Ubud traditional market is a must-see and an ideal place to find that cool souvenir that might have eluded you.

8. Do visit Museum Blanco. This magical place will astound your cultural senses.

9. Visit one of the many temples in the area of Ubud.

10. Take a walk to Nyuhkuning and see some of the most beautiful rice terraces on the island.

Huge Solar Flare Jams Radio and Satellite Signals

A powerful solar eruption that triggered a huge geomagnetic storm has disturbed radio communications and could disrupt electrical power grids, radio and satellite communication in the next days, NASA said.

A strong wave of charged plasma particles emanating from the Jupiter-sized sun spot, the most powerful seen in four years, has already disrupted radio communication in southern China.

The Class X flash — the largest such category — erupted at 0156 GMT on Tuesday, according to the US space agency.

“X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms,” disturbing telecommunications and electric grids, NASA said on Thursday.

Geomagnetic storms usually last 24 to 48 hours — but some could last for many days, read a statement from the US National Weather Service.

“Ground to air, ship to shore, shortwave broadcast and amateur radio are vulnerable to disruption during geomagnetic storms. Navigation systems like GPS can also be adversely affected.”

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory said it saw a large coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with the flash blasting toward Earth at about 560 miles per second (900 kilometers per second).

The flare spread from Active Region 1158 in the sun’s southern hemisphere, which had so far lagged behind the northern hemisphere in flash activity. It followed several smaller flares in recent days.

“The calm before the storm,” read a statement on the US National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Service.

“Three CMEs are enroute, all a part of the Radio Blackout events on February 13, 14, and 15 (UTC). The last of the three seems to be the fastest and may catch both of the forerunners about mid to late … February 17.”

The China Meteorological Administration reported that the solar flare caused “sudden ionospheric disturbances” in the atmosphere above China and jammed shortwave radio communications in the southern part of the country.

The CMA warned there was a high probability that large solar flares would appear over the next three days, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) said meanwhile that the solar storm would result in spectacular Northern Lights displays starting Thursday.

One coronal mass ejection reached Earth on February 14, “sparking Valentine’s Day displays of the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) further south than usual.”

“Two CMEs are expected to arrive in the next 24-48 hours and further… displays are possible some time over the next two nights if skies are clear,” it said.

The office published geomagnetic records dating back to the Victorian era which it hopes will help in planning for future storms.

“Life increasingly depends on technologies that didn’t exist when the magnetic recordings began,” said Alan Thomson, BGS head of geomagnetism.

“Studying the records will tell us what we have to plan and prepare for to make sure systems can resist solar storms,” he said.

A 2009 report by a panel of scientists assembled by NASA said that a sustained and powerful solar flare outbreak could overwhelm high-voltage transformers with electrical currents and short-circuit energy grids.

The report, titled Severe Space Weather Events — Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts, warned that such a catastrophic event could cost the United States alone up to US$2 trillion in repairs in the first year — and it could take up to 10 years to fully recover.

Filed under: Headlines

Police Chief’s ‘Shoot to Kill’ Rule Claims First Victim

DENPASAR

A week after Bali Police chief Hadiatmoko ordered a shoot on sight policy to deal with rising crime rates, a 34-year-old Lombok man is dead, shot through the head while fleeing arrest.

Police said M Syahri, alias Bedog, one of five men detained by police on suspicion they were a villa break-in gang, had tried to break away from his escort while being taken to a crime scene.

They said he was suspected of having been one of the men who savagely attacked Australian woman Christine Cheryl Raeside, of Perth, at her rented Pererenan villa on January 25 and could have been involved in a later break-in and assault on an American man.

Announcing his shoot on sight policy last week, Bali Police chief Hadiatmoko said crime targeting foreigners and locals had reached levels prompting concern that it could damage Bali’s tourism image and frighten off visitors.

“The police have to act firmly and, if necessary, shoot on sight if perpetrators try to escape arrest,” Hadiatmoko said.

Hadiatmoko visited Raeside at her villa after the robbery and assault.

Raeside’s husband Peter, who was in Perth at the time of the robbery, said this week his wife woke about 1am and found four men in the room who grabbed her, gagged her with a sarong and tied her hands behind her back. A knife was held at her throat and the men demanded money, bashing her head against the floor, before stealing goods.

He said that after they left Raeside bit off her gag and cut off her hand-ties before raising the alarm.

Police also say the dead robber was involved in the robbery of American man Philip Mimbimi at his villa in North Kuta. Mimbimi was stabbed in a leg as he tussled with robbers during the robbery.

Before both the latest incidents the Indonesian wife of a retired British pilot man was found dead at her North Kuta home, beaten and with a broken neck. It is believed she was the victim of a break-in robbery although police investigators said there were no signs of forced entry at the villa.

The string of violent break-ins has also hit Indonesian householders and the gang is believed also to have been behind a series of petrol station robberies.

Bali Police crime director Edy Sumitro Tambunan said this week investigations showed the gang operated in two groups and had committed robberies in 14 different places, on houses and villas.

He said they sneaked into villas through the rice paddies, climbed the walls and broke the windows and doors using a crowbar and screwdriver. Once inside they threatened victims with knives or replica guns.

The police operation that led to the arrest of the five men seized two swords, four gold necklaces, money and a watch. They were arrested in a squatter area in Renon. One of the ringleaders, named by police as Melong, escaped during the operation.

Police said Syahri was shot dead later, when he tried to escape as police were taking him to one of the crime scenes.

He had been arrested before on suspicion of robbery, in 2008. He tried to flee on that occasion too, but police shot him in the leg.

Filed under: Headlines

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Zoning Law Set to Spark a Battle Royal

DENPASAR

Governor I Made Mangku Pastika and the Badung and Gianyar regents could be headed into a public row over the moratorium on new hotels in south Bali — which Pastika announced late last year and formally issued in January — and demands from the governor that regencies apply the new zoning laws.

And the governor upped the ante this week by formally asking district administrations to demolish unlicensed commercial villas, saying that if stern action was not taken the problem would only grow.

The problem with Bali’s new zoning law, which also prohibits building within five kilometres of a major temple – directly affecting a large number of existing properties in the Uluwatu area of the Bukit, for example – is that under the devolution policy the central and provincial governments set environmental rules and districts (regencies) administer building permit regulations.

Governor Pastika has sought to bring building permits under control but constitutionally cannot sideline the regents. The leaders of both Badung and Gianyar have made it clear they wish to continue development in their regencies on their own rules.

The moratorium of major new hotels, designed to stop new developments in Badung, Gianyar and Denpasar in a bid to curb overcrowding in the south and encourage investment in other parts of the island, has won general approval.
But Gianyar is seeking amendments to the rule that would permit high-price hotels to build while cutting out new construction of standard five-star establishments over the life of the moratorium.

And it is not only the regents Pastika now has to deal with. Traditional Pecatu residents have protested against the temple exclusion zone around Uluwatu because villas and other accommodation places, and the service sector generally, depend on them for jobs and local income.

Pastika said it was essential to move against villas and other places that not only were unlicensed but which failed to meet the strict requirements of the new zoning law.

“It’s OK to remind the owners once that their premises must be licensed and must conform to the zoning law,” he said.

But where there was consistent refusal to rectify the situation the authorities had no alternative but to act. Pastika said there were 25 villas in Badung regency alone that were clearly known to be operating illegally.

The demolition threat has alarmed traditional Pecatu residents. Bendesa Pecatu indigenous leader Wayan Rebong and other officials have denounced the policy, saying local people reject the concept of implementing the actions contained in the governor’s circular relating to demolition of structures within the Uluwatu exclusion zone.

The village head of Pecatu, Made Sumartha, said this week: “We want to invite the governor to come to Pecatu order to see the condition of their communities and the impact implementing the instructions in his letter would have. About 600 employees would be laid off. I think this has been violating human rights.”

Sumartha said the villas earmarked for demolition are mostly owned by local residents who have opened tourist accommodation business. There were only three villas owned by investors. “If these villas are dismantled, Pecatu’s local economy will die.”

He added: “If you want to demolish, demolish them all. Do not be selective, or confine the action to the Pecatu area only. All development that violates the sanctity of the temple radius everywhere in Bali must be dismantled.”

The temporary moratorium on new hotels, a decree dated January 5, 2011, states that three regions, Denpasar, Badung and Gianyar, are over-supplied with hotel rooms and so further hotel construction is prohibited.

Government spokesman Ketut Teneng said at his regular Tuesday media briefing: “Permission for hotel development in the future must wait for the outcome of further studies.”

The political and administrative reasons for the growing row over zoning and building permits are clear from three letters sent out by the Governor. They are:

* Letter No. 645/61/Sat Pol Dated January 14, 2011, calling for the demolishing of 25 buildings standing within the five-kilometre forbidden zone surrounding Uluwatu Temple.

* Letter No. 660.1/2080/Bid.Was/BLH: regarding control of spatial use zoning issues.

* Letter No. 570/1665/BPM: ordering a temporary moratorium on in-principle agreements or investment registrations for hotels and guests house.

The Badung House of Representatives is to meet to discuss how best to respond to the governor’s demands, which are viewed in Badung as a burden and unfair. Badung is Bali’s richest and most developed regency.

The chairman of Badung’s Commission B, Putu Parwata, who is also the chairman of a special committee for the Badung Zoning regulations (RTRW Badung), said final revisions of a separate RTRW for Badung are in now hand.

It is reported to largely conform to the provincial zoning law but to set out a range of “special circumstances” applying in Badung. Parwata said one issue was that a moratorium of new hotels was detrimental to Badung’s tax-base growth.

Parwata, who has been prominent in the bid to sort out the unlicensed and illegal construction and operation of the Best Western Kuta hotel, said it was impossible to implement the governor’s demolition order on the large number of existing structures within a five-kilometre radius of Uluwatu temple. “What’s more, it’s not clear who must be responsible for demolishing the buildings, the province or the regency,” he said.

Gianyar Regent Tjok Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati said on Tuesday he believed there was still room for discussion over the actual implementation of the moratorium.

A Constitutional Court bench in January dismissed a legal challenge to Bali’s new zoning law brought by Bali’s affected regents.

Filed under: Headlines

Exploring the Markets of Kuta and Denpasar in Bali

by Barrie | February 15th, 2011  

Bali is an incredible place for tourists with so much to see and, experience. The problem for a majority of tourists is time being on a restricted holiday plan. However, we all love shopping [although I am not a great lover of it] and the areas of Kuta and Denpasar have a fabulous experience for those wishing to experience Balinese culture.

I am talking about markets. Not just your usual tourist markets, although I have included those, but traditional markets as well. I think it’s the buzz of the colour and culture and the opportunity to bargain for your purchase that is an exciting experience; as well as satisfying.

I have this penchant wherever I travel in the archipelago of Indonesia and that is for traditional markets. It gives me a buzz just walking around checking out the goings-on and the manner tourists handle bargaining and the ilk. There are numerous markets in Bali; some good and some that are totally gross.
The general tourist markets are interesting but in my opinion, the traditional markets are the best. You will find these in just about every village and town on the island. However, if you are just searching for the cool T-shirt, weird object d’art or a souvenir as a gift for a friend, then most of the stuff you see on the street stalls you will inevitably find in the markets.

Most of the markets you visit will be so rich and alive with colour and activity as well as having delicious traditional Balinese food for sale. A good idea is to get to the market as early as possible, stroll around and have breakfast. One hint – get there early in the morning because the later the morning becomes, the hotter and busier it is.

Kuta Art Market: Located in Tuban behind the Matahari Square complex and opposite the Stadium Café, the Kuta Art Market is one of the big drawcards for tourists visiting Bali. At times this place can be overwhelming with its cacophony of narrow alleys crammed with various ‘tourist’ fare.

The market is a great place to visit but best done in the morning. If it all gets too much for you then simply walk to the back of the markets to the beach which backs onto it. Also, here you will find kaki lima selling some delicious traditional Balinese foods.

Wake Bali Art Market: Located on Jalan Kartika Plaza in Tuban the relatively new Wake Bali Art Market is doing a good trade. Unlike the pushy and somewhat uncomfortable markets around the area, the Wake Bali Art Market offers a relaxed atmosphere in which to shop at your leisure. Their choice of Balinese handicrafts is quite good and reasonably priced compared with its counterparts in other places on the tourist strip. The Wake Bali Art Market is a great place to shop for those special gifts or if you desire is to decorate your home with that Balinese touch, this is the place to go.

Pasar Badung: This is the largest market in Bali and acts as a sort of clearing house for many island goods. Sarong vendors in Padangbai may buy their wares at Pasar Badung. Fruit and vegetable producers from around Bali may bring their goods to market at Pasar Badung, so the market is humming with activity 24/7.

Around the ground floor areas of Pasar Badung, especially outside the stairwells, one can observe older Balinese ladies preparing and selling traditional Balinese snack foods, complete with ground chilli’s, vegetables and an array of other items. You may not know exactly what you’re eating but it could be a wonderful experience and one that will not break the bank.

Pasar Kumbasari: Another market that is also worth a visit is Pasar Kumbasari. This 4-storey traditional art-market is located across the Badung River from Pasar Badung. Pasar Kumbasari is purely an art market, stocking sarongs, paintings, textiles, woodcarvings and other souvenir items. You can walk from one market to the other in 2 minutes.

Other markets in Denpasar:

Pasar Burung: This is a smaller scale open-air market located on Jl. Veteran, north on Alun-alun Puputan. This market does not sell food or sarongs, but specializes in live animals, particularly live birds. No doubt the conditions of the market are not up to western standards, but one has to put this kind of thing aside for the moment in order to check out the place. Tropical birds of all kinds can be found there.

Pasar Malam: Located next to a busy street, these places look like a disaster area during the day, a combination or bare cement, corrugated iron roofs, piles of garbage and parked food carts, this is a great market to visit. Things found at a pasar malam will be all things goreng (fried). Giant wok1 1 meter in diameter are set up on jet engine-like burners, each containing about a gallon or 2 of vegetable oil.

Locals have figured out by now that this is the easiest way to knock out food fast, away from a proper kitchen. Ayam goreng (fried chicken), served with rice and lalapan (raw cabbage, green beans, mint leaves and sliced cucumber, with a portion of hot sambal) is a good choice. No doubt there will be a soto ayam (chicken soup) seller and of course a corner stall cranking out pisang goreng (fried bananas).

Other sources of tourist fare can be found at the numerous factory outlets located in the Kuta area and Denpasar. Although all goods for sale are fixed price, most of what you can purchase is of good quality and reasonably priced.

Balinese markets are not as scary as they look and you can have a good time checking them out.

February 11-17, 2011

By Dr Robert Goldman

Longevity News and Review provides readers with the latest information in breakthroughs pertaining to the extension of the healthy human lifespan. These news summaries are compiled by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M; www.worldhealth.net), a non-profit medical society composed of 24,000 physician and scientist members from 110 nations, united in a mission to advance biomedical technologies to detect, prevent and treat aging related disease and to promote research into methods to retard and optimise the human aging process. Dr Robert Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., D.O., FAASP, A4M Chairman, and Dr Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O., A4M President, physician co-founders of the anti-aging medical movement, distil these headlines and provide their commentary.

Healthy Lifestyle May Cut Strokes
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer, and a major cause of disability. With the aging of the American population and as obesity increases, more strokes are occurring: 795,000 a year, with 77 percent of them first-time; yet deaths from strokes have decreased by 30 percent. Experts speculate the reductions in stroke mortality are due in large part to improved prevention. As such, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have issued new guidelines aimed at reducing the incidence of stroke. Identifying lifestyle as having the biggest impact on preventing stroke, the new guidelines urge not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. By adopting these measures, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association estimates that an individual’s risk for first-time stroke can be cut by 80 percent. The expert panel concludes that: “Extensive evidence identifies a variety of specific factors that increase the risk of a first stroke and that provide strategies for reducing that risk.”

Dr Klatz observes: Finding that measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle can cut a person’s risk for first-time stroke by 80 percent, these new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association reinforce the importance of embracing the anti-aging lifestyle.

Exercise Helps Prevent Osteoarthritis
The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative joint disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness.  Thomas M. Link, from University of California/San Francisco, and colleagues studied 132 asymptomatic participants at-risk for knee osteoarthritis who were enrolled in the National Institutes of Health Osteoarthritis Initiative, as well as 33 age- and body-mass index-matched controls. Study participants included 99 women and 66 men between the ages of 45 and 55. The participants were separated into three exercise and strength-training levels, based on their responses to a standardized physical activity questionnaire. Exercise levels included sedentary, light exercisers and moderate to strenuous exercisers; strength-training groups included none, minimal and frequent. Knee-bending activities were also analysed. MRI exams revealed that light exercisers had the healthiest knee cartilage among all exercise levels, and patients with minimal strength training had healthier cartilage than patients with either no strength training or frequent strength training. Moderate to strenuous exercise in women who did any amount of strength training was associated with higher water content and more degenerated collagen architecture in the knee. In addition, the findings showed that frequent knee-bending activities, such as climbing up at least 10 flights of stairs a day, lifting objects weighing more than 25 pounds, or squatting, kneeling or deep knee bending for at least 30 minutes per day, were associated with higher water content and cartilage abnormalities. The researchers conclude that: “Light exercise appears to protect against cartilage degeneration in subjects with OA risk factors, and moderate-strenuous exercise in females seems to be detrimental,” urging that: “Modifying physical activity may be an effective intervention to prevent cartilage degeneration.” 

Remarks Dr Goldman: Finding that people at-risk for osteoarthritis may be able to delay the onset of the disease or even prevent it with simple changes to their physical activity, these researchers underscore the health-promoting effects of routine exercise.

Omega-3s ‘Protect Vision’ 
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in Caucasian Americans. High concentrations of omega-3s have been found in the eye’s retina, and evidence is mounting that the nutrient may be essential to eye health. Sheila K. West, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and colleagues engaged 2520 Maryland residents, ages 65 to 84 years, to participate in a study assessing the role of a diet rich in fish and seafood, on AMD onset and progression.  The team surveyed study subjects for fish and shellfish consumption over a one-year period, and assessed participants for AMD. Those with no AMD were classified as controls (1,942 persons); 227 had early AMD; 153 had intermediate-stage disease; and 68 had advanced AMD. In the advanced AMD group, the macular area of the retina exhibited either neovascularization (abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding) or a condition called geographic atrophy. Both conditions can result in blindness or severe vision loss. The team found that while participants in all groups, including controls, averaged at least one serving of fish or shellfish per week, those who had advanced AMD were significantly less likely to consume high omega-3 fish and seafood.  They conclude that: “These data support a protective effect of fish/shellfish intake against advanced AMD.”

Comments Dr Klatz: In discovering novel nutrient mechanisms involved in the protective effect of an omega-3 rich diet on age-related macular degeneration, this team from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine elucidates a potentially vital dietary intervention for a leading cause of blindness.
Anti-aging medicine is the fastest-growing medical specialty throughout the world and is founded on the application of advanced scientific and medical technologies for the early detection, prevention, treatment, and reversal of age-related dysfunction, disorders, and diseases.  It is a healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong the healthy lifespan in humans.  As such, anti-aging medicine is based on solid scientific principles of responsible medical care that are consistent with those applied in other preventive health specialties.  The goal of anti-aging medicine is not to merely prolong the total years of an individual’s life, but to ensure that those years are enjoyed in a productive and vital fashion.
Visit the A4M’s World Health Network website, at www.worldhealth.net, to learn more about the A4M and its educational endeavors and to sign-up for your free subscription to Longevity Magazine™ e-Journal.

Filed under: Longevity News & Review

Five Killed in Bintan Plane Crash

JAKARTA

All five people on a test flight were killed in Bintan on Saturday when their small plane crashed following a change of one of its engines.

The Cassa aircraft of Sabang Merauke Raya Air Charter left Batam island and crashed on Bintan island, both in Riau Islands province.

“The pilot, co-pilot and three technicians died in the accident. They were on a flight test after they changed one of the engines for the aircraft,” Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said.

Filed under: News Alerts

Taman Kupu Kupu – Bali Butterfly Park

by Barrie | February 14th, 2011  

One of the delightful must-see and do experiences in Bali is a visit to where butterflies dance around you. Being just eight degrees below the Equator, Bali has the type of climate that is pleasing and relatively mild although warm. It is an island that has a diverse range of animal species.

One that I have always found delightful is butterflies. You will find them fluttering around the gardens in your hotel but it is when you get out of the polluted tourist areas that you are able to view these colourful creatures in their natural habitat. Of course the most spectacular in colour of these butterflies you will predominately find in the jungle areas of Bali such as the Bali Barat National Park.

However, there is no need for you to go trekking through the jungle to view these beautiful creatures. Located 7kms north of the town of Tabanan, at Wanasari, on the road to Penebel is the Bali Butterfly Park (Taman Kupu Kupu) – kupu kupu is Indonesian for butterflies. It will take about an hour to get there by vehicle. The park is a fabulous place for families and educational for children.

After passing through a couple of doors and a set of hanging chains, you are inside the net-covered garden. From the very start you will be enchanted by the array of thousands of brightly coloured butterflies all around you; hovering in curiosity as you wander through. I particularly liked the large yellow and black butterflies fluttering around. The park is aesthetically mesmerising. Photography is allowed.

The Bali Butterfly Park covers 3,500m sq, making it the largest park of its kind in South-East Asia and the park provides an environment for butterfly preservation and study.

Opening hours:
Daily 8am-5pm

Bali Butterfly Park
Jalan Batukaru,
Sandan Wanasari
Tabanan 80351
Tel: (0361) 814282 (0361) 814283
Fax: (0361) 814281

Further Reading: Butterflies of Bali by Victor Mason

6 Offbeat Things to Do in Bali

by Barrie | February 10th, 2011  

There are numerous adventure companies in Bali offering a wide range of adrenaline-pumping activities. A few I have already experienced and I am looking forward to completing my list of crazy and adventurous things to do.

There are the mundane and less adventurous activities like going surfing at night or getting lost in the Bali Barat National Park [been there, done that and wouldn’t recommend it to anybody!] or even diving alone off any of the reefs around the island. However, there are those activities that will give you a buzz and get the heart pumping.

Walking in the Ocean: Imagine if someone said to you that you could walk right on the bottom of the ocean and be down there with all the sea life. This is a unique diving system, fully escorted as you walk down deep into the ocean. It is totally safe and an exciting underwater adventure run by Sea Walker. You can observe the underwater world up to a depth of 15 feet without certification, and without getting your hair wet. Crazy, but, you actually walk on the bottom, rather than swim.

Climb Gunung Agung: There are two established trekking routes to get to the summit. The first is from Pura Besakih, meaning a 2.5 hour drive from Kuta, and a long climb lasting several hours to get to the summit by dawn. This route gets you to the highest point on the crater rim. Always take a local guide and negotiate their fee before taking off on the climb. However, from Pura Pasar Agung on the southern slope you can hike without a guide, but there are a few guys hanging out just in case. The climb is a straight shot up a 40 degree slope. No bends or switch backs. Climbing Gunung Agung is very hard on the knees and not recommended during the wet season. Don’t forget to carry 4-5 liters of water per person and food.

White Water Rafting: Sobek really has cornered this market and in my opinion offer the best of the best as far as service is concerned. Whether you are 5 or 85, a natural or a novice in rafting, white water rafting down the spectacular Ayung River is a breathtaking experience to be enjoyed.

Bungy Jump: Not one for those who suffer from vertigo but if you can overcome you fears and experience the exhilarating free-fall into thin air, then head down to AJ Hackett’s place on Jl Double Six. Located in the grounds of the Double Six nightclub, you could always have few shots of Dutch courage and toss yourself into the abyss.

Submarine Dive: Odyssey has an excellent small but quite safe submarine where you can view the exotic sea below the waves, so to speak. People of all ages and physical condition can experience the delights of the ocean in a safe and comfortable atmosphere. The sightseeing Submarine is battery-powered so as to pose no threat to the marine environment and what is great is the sub is air-conditioned and can carry 36 passengers to depths of 150 feet. Safety is assured in this highly sophisticated vessel.

Helicopter Ride: You have probably seen them flying overhead as you chill-out on Kuta beach. There are a few companies that do these tours of the island and it is a fantastic way to get an aerial tour that will show you the best of Bali. Most of them will give you a bird’s eye view of volcanoes, lakes, stepped rice fields and remote beaches.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Protected Mangrove Forests to be Robbed of Two Hectares

by Barrie | February 14th, 2011  

One attraction tourists to Bali seldom visit is the Mangrove Information Centre in Sanur located on Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai at Suwung Kauh. It’s an amazing place with helpful staff ever-willing to answer all your questions and, in fact, the information centre is an education in itself on the ecology and management of Mangroves.

There are two trails to choose from – a short route of about one hour, and the other, a longer route of nearly two hours. If you chose the latter it will give you the opportunity to see as much of the mangrove swamps as possible.

The wooden pathway on a connecting bridge system six feet above the ground affords spectacular views of the mangroves and its wildlife as you walk towards the open sea. When you eventually reach the sea, the spectacular view of Benoa Port on one side and Tanjung Benoa on the other is a rewarding sight.

This place is truly stunning at sunrise and at dusk. What has annoyed me is an article I read in the Bali Discovery concerning these protected mangroves. It seems that the increase in tourism has inspired the Balinese Government to extend a toll way connecting Nusa Dua and Benoa. This will require the sacrifice of two hectares of the protected mangrove forests. According to the article the two hectares are needed to construct access ramps at the Ngurah Rai International Airport, Tuban and Nusa Dua.

So, with the ever increasing numbers of tourists visiting Bali, does this mean that sacred areas are under threat?